Briefly Noted: ‘Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction’
Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction by Farah Mendlesohn and Michael Levy won the 2018 Mythopoeic Award for Myth and Fantasy Studies. When Sandra Lindow, Levy’s widow, accepted the award for her late husband (who died last year), she said, “He would be particularly pleased to receive this recognition because historically children’s fantasy has been undervalued. A good part of his career was dedicated to reading and researching those books that provide both high-quality entertainment and emotional education for children and young adults.”
With the exception of R. J. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which also captured the attention of adult readers, children’s fantasy is often written off as “just kids’ stuff” while fairy tales have received a great deal of scholarly analysis. I hope this award will help draw attention to this book as well as its subject.
“Fantasy has been an important and much-loved part of children’s literature for hundreds of years, yet relatively little has been written about it. Children’s Fantasy Literature traces the development of the tradition of the children’s fantastic – fictions specifically written for children and fictions appropriated by them – from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century, examining the work of Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, C. S. Lewis, Roald Dahl, J. K. Rowling and others from across the English-speaking world. The volume considers changing views on both the nature of the child and on the appropriateness of fantasy for the child reader, the role of children’s fantasy literature in helping to develop the imagination, and its complex interactions with issues of class, politics, and gender. The text analyses hundreds of works of fiction, placing each in its appropriate context within the tradition of fantasy literature.”
Children’s Literature Association Quarterly Review
“Children’s Fantasy Literature: An Introduction is an immense work in scope and scholarship. As befits its authors, Michael Levy and Farah Mendlesohn – two prominent figures in the world of children’s literature criticism – this latest work is a far-reaching feat that grasps the tenuous strings of the inception of both fantasy and children’s literature and weaves them from the sixteenth through the twenty-first centuries into a tremendous narrative tapestry.” – Joli Barham McClelland
From the Introduction
“The aim of this book is to bring together two traditions of criticism, that of the literature of the fantasic, and that of children’s literature. In addition, the book aims ti situate children’s fantasy in the context of changing ideas of childhood across three centuries; and perhaps most crucially, to consider the effect which the extension of childhood has had upon the writing and publishing of children’s fiction.”
The research and writing of this book comprise an ambitious project that will lead to greater understanding of the genre and–with luck–more respect.